BOONE, N.C. — Senior Day at The Rock ended in a special way.
With Appalachian State’s offense lined up to take a knee from the victory formation in the final minute of a 21-10 win against Troy, sophomore receiver Thomas Hennigan frantically waved toward the sideline.
He was trying to catch the attention of senior receiver Brad Absher, who finally figured out that Hennigan wanted Absher to replace him on the field for the final play of a division-clinching victory in Kidd Brewer Stadium. Absher ran onto the field, slapped hands with excited, fist-pumping receiver Corey Sutton, did the same with quarterback Zac Thomas and embraced tight end Collin Reed.
Here’s how the scene played out to Absher: “We’re all shaking hands, everybody’s celebrating the win, and I happen to glance on the field, and I see Thomas pointing. I’m like, ‘Who’s he pointing at?’ I’m looking around, he’s pointing, and I’m like, ‘Me?’ He took off running, and I jogged out there. He said, ‘Get out there; you earned it.’ … It just goes to show how selfless he is. Obviously, it means a whole lot to me. It was really cool and something I’ll remember.”
From Hennigan: “I look over on the sideline and see Brad, and I’m like, it doesn’t feel right for a sophomore to be out here after everything he’s done for the program – earning a scholarship this year. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, Brad needs to be in the game.’ Brad earned to be in the game.”
One of seven fifth-year seniors on App State’s roster, Absher arrived in Boone as a walk-on receiver from 1-A West Montgomery High School in Troy, N.C., and received a scholarship before this season. He’s been a valuable contributor in many areas, including his on-field performance, as he’s a special teams standout who started this year’s South Alabama game at receiver.
Two years ago, as a sophomore, Absher finished with two catches and had a key third-down conversion to extend a fourth-quarter touchdown drive in a close win at Akron. He has made five catches for 30 yards this season and increased his career total to 34 games played in an App State uniform.
The respect he’s earned from teammates young and old played a role in Hennigan’s on-the-fly gesture. And thanks to the Senior Day win, App State’s seniors get one more game in Kidd Brewer Stadium, this time against Louisiana on Saturday with the Sun Belt championship at stake.
“It’s something we’ve worked for since January, wanting to be in the game we’re about to be in this week,” Absher said. “It was very rewarding to be out there and know you’re that much closer to the ultimate goal. Being there on Senior Day added to it — it was really cool.”